Date of Award

Spring 5-18-2015

Degree Type




First Advisor

Dr. Eric E. Wilson


The Critique of Pure Reason inaugurated Kant’s Critical Philosophy. Commentators commonly distinguish between Kant’s Positive Project (PP), that is, his epistemology as laid out in the Transcendental Aesthetic and Transcendental Analytic, from his Negative Project (NP), expressed in terms of the destructive implications his epistemology has on speculative metaphysics and rational theology. Against this tradition I will argue that the whole of the Critique is largely a negative-destructive enterprise. I will focus on what is commonly taken as the centerpiece of the PP, that is, the Transcendental Deduction, and demonstrate that even here the NP is given normative priority. Though, to be sure, certain passages tend to encourage an interpretation of the PP as primary, I contend that this view is myopic and fails to pay sufficient attention to Kant’s global concerns in the Critique. I will demonstrate that a clear exposition of Kant’s metaphilosophical aims, commitments, and convictions is in fact corrosive to any such reading. The objective of this thesis, then, is two-fold: 1) to provide an account of Kant’s metaphilosophy in the Critique, and 2) to argue for what I will here and elsewhere refer to as the Primacy of the Negative Thesis, that is, that Kant prioritized boundary-setting over principle-generating.